FIWARE: the open source component framework of choice for smart cities, by Olaf-Gerd Gemein
Cities have to cope with similar problems everyday (eg, ageing society and elderly people, inclusion, resilience, traffic congestion, air pollution, lack of parking slots, and so on), trying to find suitable solutions they can deliver to their citizens. In addition, cities aim at boosting innovation and growth of their local economies and wellbeing of their citizen alike.
The FIWARE community, born as a Public-Private Partnership in 2013 between the European Commission and hundreds of research, industrial and strategic partners across Europe, have reached awareness and recognition across the globe, not only facilitating the discussion about open standards, but also leading and enabling the implementation of the single digital market.
Today, the FIWARE Foundation is headquartered in Berlin and working in every continent. More than 40 countries have adopted the standards and framework on different levels. The standards are generic and the components are applicable in any ICT solution, the main focus is on Smart Cities, Smart Industry, Smart Agriculture and Smart Energy. In more than 100 cities FIWARE-based solutions have been tested and successfully implemented, and renown international organisations have joined forces and recommend FIWARE incorporated standards and reference mechanisms, such as TM Forum, OASC, ETSI, NIST and many others.
What does “smart” mean in the context of ICT in cities?
Making a city “smart” means performing a more efficient management of services and turning the city into an enabler for innovation, economic growth and well-being. Digitizing cities on a large scale is a very challenging endeavour and strategic decisions today have a huge impact on the long term. By adopting common standard APIs and information models, cities can achieve this transformation with minimum effort but great impact, and join forces with other cities to build an ecosystem in which they can connect and collaborate. This enables the creation of interoperable and portable solutions that can be adapted and replicated according to the needs of each city. This way, cities can deliver better services, reduce costs and risks while triggering new business models supporting a Data Economy where data can be used in an open, transparent, profitable and fair manner. Ultimately such a “smart transition” should lead to a significant improvement in quality of life and economic prosperity.
Context Data in the Digital Realm
Data is at the centre of the new digital life: people and systems are constantly and permanently connected to the Internet and respond to data that surrounds them, even when they don’t notice it. Pervasive and plentiful data is being generated every second, creating a digital continuum and a veritable tsunami of data that deserves to be utilized and transformed into knowledge, supporting meaningful fact-based decisions and comfortable assistance.
In Vienna, the FIWARE-based platform provided by vero.city provides data services. Brigitte Lutz, City of Vienna, said: “FIWARE-based platform solution VeroCity integrates multiple datastreams from IoT devices and Open Data on the same data lake in Vienna – smartdata.wien”. Vienna is one of the front-runners and most innovative cities in the world – and also co-facilitator of this year’s ICT Challenge in Vienna. Together with the Open & Agile Smart Cities initiative (a collaboration of more than 130 agile and Smart Cities in the world) and the European Commission the stakeholders in Austria have taken the lead, inviting the most innovative developers in Europe to showcase their talents in Vienna from 4-6 December.
Christiane Boschin-Heinz, CDO of the City of Paderborn, Germany, announced: “FIWARE in the City of Paderborn is the actual choice for our OpenData Portal, including IoT device management. We are looking forward to further develop our smart solution portfolio with the support of FIWARE-based technologies.”
The City of Aachen, Germany, has taken advantage of the FIWARE framework in the area of Mobility as a Service, improving the local mobility programme “Mobility Broker”, connecting them to nationwide and European transport providers, like FlixBus.
The City of Montevideo , Uruguay, has deployed a city-wide mobility management system based on FIWARE, controlling the city traffic and managing the flow of cars and busses through peak times as well.
Cities have deployed several vertical smart solutions dealing with specific challenges. Some of these smart solutions are very sophisticated, already relying on the deployment of modern sensor networks and the application of advanced big data processing techniques or even artificial intelligence algorithms. However, very often these systems operate as information silos: each system lacks valuable information from the other and there is no shared data lake where relevant data from each system is gathered and accessible, bringing support to overall city-level governance systems or citizen demand. In addition, the adoption of open data policies is often limited to the publication of static historic data in so-called “data cemeteries”, typically through direct files, often outdated. Actual data is not only relevant and valuable for big data analysis or visualization and even for the development of certain applications, “real smart” solutions require hybrid access (real-time and static data) to figure out what is happening in the city at any given moment.
Some core benefits for the cities using FIWARE
- Each vertical system can be enhanced by exploiting data published by other systems, leading to better and more innovative services to citizens (e.g, Smart Traffic Management systems can benefit from Air Quality Monitoring systems, Smart Waste management from Citizen Relationship Management systems)
- Overall City-level Governance systems can be developed to extract better insights (about what is going on in the city and why) by merging data from multiple verticals. City-level operational dashboards can be developed easing the overall governance of city services.
Common Information Models
- Vertical solutions, as well as overall City-level Governance systems adhering to “de-facto” standard information models, can be connected plug&play (i.e., with minor adoption costs) to the cross-vertical shared context data space
- Systems are easier to replace, avoiding vendor lock-in. Competition among plug&play solutions forces vendors to compete by providing differential functions or lowering their costs. System providers, despite lowering the costs, can get a higher ROI (Return on Investment) because the market they target is larger.
Unleashing the potential of Right-time Open Data
- Because third-party solutions developed on published right-time open data can rely on context data available through standard APIs and complying with common information models, citizens can benefit from the fact that the solutions they use can work seamlessly across many other cities
- Third parties can sell their solutions to cities across the world, therefore targeting a larger market, which creates incentives for their investment. As a result, cities benefit from competition.
Enabling the Data Economy
- The city can collaborate in creating a shared context data space where data providers (the city, the citizens, companies) may monetize the publication of data for certain use (the same data can be offered for free or for a given price depending on usage) and innovative multi-side business models are enabled.
- The ability to combine data from the city and third parties will enable the development of higher-value services for citizens as well as improving service delivery by the city to citizens and businesses.
FIWARE: A STANDARD WAY TO DEVELOP AND INTEGRATE SMART CITY SOLUTIONS
FIWARE is a curated framework of open source components which can be easily integrated and assembled together, combined and integrated with other third-party platforms or components to accelerate the development of Smart Solutions. FIWARE establishes and facilitates the NGSI standards, a specification defining a simple way to send or request data and its context such as the meaning, related information, source or licensing of that data. Smart cities will be the first ones to benefit from this specification. ETSI Standardisation Group Specification CIM 004 defines a standard Application Programming Interface (API) for Context Information Management enabling close to real-time access to information coming from many different sources.
The FIWARE Orion Context Broker is a core component of FIWARE, represent the reference implementation of the NGSI standards: it gathers, manages and provides access to information coming from different sources that describe what is going on in the city, breaking the information silos.
Building around the FIWARE Context Broker, a rich suite of complementary FIWARE components are available in order to facilitate:
- interfacing with IoT sensors and other devices as well as vertical smart solutions and other information systems.
- processing of current and historic data using event rules or advanced Big Data and AI algorithms to extract valuable insights supporting smart decisions or automated smart actions
- creation of dashboards for monitoring progress of processes within the city
- generation of valuable reports as well as the analysis and monitoring of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
The FIWARE Context Broker technology can easily integrate with blockchain technologies to provide a trustworthy and immutable tracing of certain updates on context linked to different activities managed by Public Administrations and private companies.
The FIWARE Smart Cities Reference Architecture
The FIWARE community has worked for some years on establishing the communication around a Smart Cities reference architecture, considering and harmonizing several references across the globe, from Asia to the Americas.
Currently many global organizations have adapted and joined the discussion – only this month (November 2018) the FIWARE Foundation, TM Forum and OASC jointly announced the establishment of the “Front Runner” programme, aiming for a joint collaboration programme to support the adoption of the reference architecture including compatible common data models that underpin a digital market of interoperable and replicable solutions for smart cities. The cities of Nice, Saint Quentin (France), Utrecht (Netherlands), Porto (Portugal), Santander, Valencia (Spain), La Plata (Argentina), Vienna (Austria) and Montevideo (Uruguay) are the first to join the programme, with an open invitation to other cities to join. The scope is:
1.- The definition of a Smart City Platform Reference Architecture that both organizations will recommend. The reference architecture uses the FIWARE NGSI (Next Generation Service Interface) API for context information management and other FIWARE components to support data monetization, based on TM Forum Business Open APIs.
2.- The collaborative cross-industry generation, crowdsourcing and publication of data models for smart cities following a driven-by-implementation approach. Data model specifications will evolve from draft preliminary up to stable and final TM Forum recommendations as cities endorse the specifications based on experience with acual deployments.
The Smart City at the Dawn of the Data Economy
Businesses around the globe are transforming into platform models enabling the exchange of information, the exchange of goods or services, and the exchange of currency between consumers and producers.
To grow through levels of maturity, a smart city may consider establishing a platform model, leveraging an infrastructure to enable all city stakeholders to come together, find what they need, and transact with each other, should be considered at the core of a smart city strategy.
It’s a new way of thinking that cities should be encouraged to follow. In the past, many city departments have seen their role in providing services to their citizens, visitors and the local economy. A platform model changes this world view and leads to “Smart City 5.0”!
Cities still have a role to play in providing services, but are doing so in partnership with a wider range of stakeholders. Cities are also forced to enable citizens, visitors and the local economy to create their own value by being able to combine the city services and assets they need themselves. For example, citizens are increasingly demanding information about the local transport services as well as real-time parking data, safe walking route information and ride-hire services. Whereas previously a city might see its responsibility as running the local bus service, now its responsibility is to make sure citizens are able to plan and map a multimodal transport journey in the way that they want: to get somewhere by a specific time, to reduce their reliance on cars, or to help them increase their physical activity.
Citizens are demanding that cities make the context data available so that they can compose their own solutions or benefit from agile developers who can build innovative applications relying on available context data. The FIWARE core project “Smart MaaS”, financed by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi), is addressing this and building a platform, marketplace and components to enable transport providers to exchange data and service based on standards and benefit from a truly open, innovative and interoperable framework with FIWARE technologies and standards at the core.
FIWARE IN CONTEXT
“The focus of the Smart MaaS project, however, is not only the handling of modern travel chains and their operational relations,” says Gernot Böge, FIWARE Solution Architect. “Since mobility as a cross-sectional function is closely interlinked with the other areas of modern life and society models, we will use examples and use cases to demonstrate the enormous potential resulting from the complementary and unifying networking of services of the different domains and into novel business processes and models can be transferred. One of the central elements is the implementation of the new ETSI NGSI-LD standard, “ he continues.
“Only the machine-readable link and description makes isolated data information with overarching significance. We will implement structures of the semantic web and linked data concepts and develop freely available, cross-domain reference ontologies. Machine readable, semantic data descriptions will help developers to find unknown services, explore their provided data and functions, and merge them into their own applications. The FIWARE framework is ideally suited for such a highly integrated deployment scenario and we are looking forward to a successful project with all involved partners.”
Context data is made up of the combination of pieces of information coming from multiple sources. Only owners of each piece of information should drive the decisions of who shall have access to their data, when, where and what for. Freedom of choice is a right digital citizens and businesses won’t be forced to renounce. This means that they can exercise full sovereignty over their data. They also decide whether they want to monetize their data and who will have to pay for it. European regulators have recently influenced the practice by setting the GDPR directive, driven by the excessive breaches of global information players.
One crucial role of the city platform is to connect consumers and producers, enabling a federated publication of context data, allowing app builders to find and use data from city and third party sources while preserving data sovereignty. User rights acquisition processes and revenue-sharing APIs enable these “consumers and producers” to buy and sell context data, building the basis for the new local Data Economy.
FIWARE Context Broker in Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is a key EU programme aimed at promoting growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at European level. The digital arm of this program, CEF Digital, funds investments in digital CEF Building Blocks and cross-border Digital Service Infrastructures (DSIs) on top of which Digital Services can be developed that improve the daily lives of European citizens and businesses and work the same in all EU member states. This way, CEF Digital effectively supports the creation of a Digital Single Market. Within CEF, a budget of €870 million is earmarked for trans-European digital services for 2014-2020.
In 2018, the FIWARE Context Broker became one of the CEF Building Blocks providing a standard mean for public administrations of EU member states (including smart cities) as well as business to share data in right time.
Being part of the CEF ecosystem means:
- Interoperability with the other CEF Building Blocks;
- Compliance with the regulations;
- Endorsement at public level;
- Recommended for cross-border solutions.
GLOBAL ORGANIZATIONS ENDORSING FIWARE
GSMA has produced a Reference Architecture for IoT-enabled Big Data Ecosystem solutions where the FIWARE NGSI API is recommended. GSMA has collaborated with the FIWARE Foundation in producing Common Information Models compatible with the API.
ETSI launched an ISG (Industry Specifications Group) on cross-cutting Context Information Management (CIM) API standards which identified OMA NGSI and FIWARE NGSI as starting points for the API specs. The ETSI NGSI-LD API specification comes as a result of that work.
OASC (Open and Agile Smart Cities) is a non-profit, international smart city network that has the goal of creating and shaping the nascent global smart city data and services market. The initiative comprises actually more than 125 cities in 26 countries, is driven by implementation and focused on open platforms and citizen engagement. Within the OASC initiative, the FIWARE NGSI Standard is adopted as “MIM” and the API is adopted as a first open license standard API targeted to provide the basic artifact for portability and interoperability of smart city solutions.
The “Consensus Framework” pictured shows the circle in which innovation procurement in embedded. The framework is an outcome of the author’s work with public authorities across the globe in multiple projects. It will be published in February 2019.
NIST (US) launched a global coalition aiming at defining a Things-Enabled Smart City Framework that identifies pivotal points of interoperability, where emerging alignment on standards can enable the landscape of diverse but interoperable smart city solutions. Within the framework, FIWARE NGSI was identified as one strong standard candidate enabling interoperability within a city and portability across cities.
THE FIWARE MARKETPLACE
The FIWARE Marketplace is a global one-stop shop that gives access to a wide range of Powered by FIWARE solutions and platforms, FIWARE-ready technologies, as well as related FIWARE services such as training, coaching, consultancy, integration and technical support.
The Marketplace offers everyone in the FIWARE ecosystem the platform to become more visible to their target customers, as well as potential investors and partners. Smart Solutions rely on FIWARE standards to manage context information on a large scale. They use FIWARE technologies to gather and process context information coming from different and highly distributed sources. FIWARE platform service providers offer FIWARE-compliant platforms as a Service on private and public clouds. Also, Platform Service Providers can deploy FIWARE platform instances on premises for their customers.
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE FIWARE FOUNDATION
FIWARE’s mission is to develop an open sustainable ecosystem around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven software platform standards that will ease the creation of Smart Applications in multiple sectors.
The FIWARE Foundation is the legal independent body providing shared resources to help achieve the FIWARE Mission that is to build an open sustainable ecosystem around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven software platform standards that will ease the development of new Smart Applications in multiple sectors. It does so by Empowering, Promoting, Augmenting, Protecting, and Validating FIWARE technologies and supporting the Community around, including not only developers contributing code to the FIWARE component framework but also those who contribute to building the FIWARE ecosystem and making it sustainable over time. As such, individuals and organizations committing relevant resources in FIWARE Lab activities or activities of the FIWARE Accelerator, FIWARE Mundus or FIWARE iHubs programmes are also considered members of the FIWARE community.
The members of the FIWARE Foundation are pioneers in building the Smart Digital Future. To learn about the range of benefits and membership levels, visit fiware.org.
Olaf-Gerd Gemein is Business Architect and Smart City Expert at the Smart Cities Lab
Follow Olaf-Gerd Gemein @oggemein on Twitter and @FIWARE on Twitter